Revisiting the concept of the property state : private landowners and suburban development in Hong Kong

Yung YAU, Tin Choi CHEUNG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Under the prevailing land-leasehold system, the Hong Kong government is thought to be the dominant supplier of land for housing development and for economic transformation. These characteristics make Hong Kong a “property state,” to use a concept developed by Anne Haila. However, the protection of private property rights has long been a core value in the city. As a result, private developers and investors have endeavored to build up their own land banks, enabling private-profit-oriented entities to dominate the land supply market for housing development. This article supplements previous works on land monopoly in Hong Kong. While previous works focused mainly on the role of the property lobby in the disposal of new land by the government, this article offers another perspective on land monopoly, based on the case of underutilized land resources in the New Territories of Hong Kong. By focusing on growth coalitions and the projects that they introduce to boost growth and enhance land values, this article provides insight into the political economy of urban development in Hong Kong. In light of the soaring property prices in the city, the Hong Kong government planned to open up the suburbs to affordable housing; yet, the government’s initiative has been hindered by the strong opposition of the owners of suburban land (including brownfield sites and abandoned agricultural land). In this article, we argue that these landowners with vested land interests are anti-growth coalitions rather than pro-growth coalitions. We demonstrate how the city’s growth machine is subverted by the hoarding of land in the suburbs by a small group of people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-464
Number of pages38
JournalAmerican Journal of Economics and Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


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